While blood and skin prick tests are essential, the oral food challenge has long been considered the gold standard for determining whether one is truly allergic to a particular food.
Despite the horrifying news of a 3 year-old Alabama boy who passed away last month after experiencing a severe reaction during a baked milk challenge, a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has determined that oral food challenges (OFCs) are actually much safer than previously thought.
While allergists have known all along that OFCs are safe when administered correctly and after the proper evaluation, single-center studies reported a 9-11% rate of anaphylaxis for these tests.
In the first multi-center study of its kind, physicians from five food allergy centers geographically distributed throughout the US responded to a survey conducted between 2008 to 2013, characterizing 6,377 oral food challenges.
The resulting pooled estimate of the rate of anaphylaxis experienced was 2% while the total rate of allergic reactions was 14%. Males reacted 16% more often than females.
The study concluded that: “performing clinical nonresearch open low-risk OFCs results in few allergic reactions, with 86% of challenges resulting in no reactions and 98% without anaphylaxis.”